Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Everglades-Shark Valley

Wednesday February 5, 2014
Midway Campground
Big Cypress Preserve



NO sharks in Shark Valley


For those who have never been here, Shark Valley is a part of Everglades National Park so your park pass or senior pass will gain you entrance.  The valley is named after the river which is a major distributary of the Harney River in Southwestern section of the Everglades. It lies in the heart of the true Everglades, the River of Grass,  is entirely at sea level and only 9.5 miles long.  But boy does it draw the wildlife to this freshwater system of sawgrass marsh and tree stands.

There is a paved 15 mile trail which runs down to an observation tower which provides a spectacular view into the sawgrass marsh  and then back up to the visitor’s center on what I always call “the back side”.   You can walk it, bike it or ride the tram with a naturalist.





We’re bikers at least for most of it.  But at the beginning, there are SO many birds and alligators along the canal that you might as well walk the first half mile since you’ll want to stop and take pictures every three feet.





Here’s are examples of what we saw while we were walking.  The great blue heron, the black crowned night heron and the gator are all getting along very well.  In the bushes where you cannot see without zooming in, is a green heron. The great egret, little blue heron and tri-colored heron are here too.   Just down the “trail” is an anhinga rookery and the little ones are in evidence.





I’m looking at their eyes.  But am finding it more difficult to get a good clear close up.   If you haven’t heard about my eyes fixation check out my .  You can find them on the right side bar,entitled  Going North to A……   and The Coe Visitor Center.


Clearly the birds are very used to people here by the canal but not so much on the second half of the trail after the observation tower where you can’t get nearly this close without scaring them off.
















If you want to see alligators, this is another guaranteed place. 


They are in the water on the edge and right along the trail.  There is no concern about them on the trail.  Just don’t ride over their tails.  Or cause any distress to the young ones if you see them.  If they little ones start calling, Mama will come charging.  As with the swamp walk, if the park service thought there was any danger, they certainly would not allow people to do that or be here.


Somebody looks like he just had a BIG breakfast.







This is as close as David is willing to get with the gator facing the water.  If he were facing the road and us, we’d give him a wider birth.






Alligator poop all along the road. Watch out where you bike and walk.






Clearly the Anhingas don’t need a lot of space for their rookery. 


There are 3 nests right next to each other on the far bank of the canal.  An anhinga apartment building???






The chicks are in the nest and the male is in charge.





The chicks look like nothing but giant mouths.




These parents swapped duties while we watched.  He had been on the nest, she flew in, and he left.



He flew over on the bank and started strutting his stuff.





There is so much to see at the beginning of the “ride” it seems we will  never get back on our bikes.






































I think he is a beauty but I can’t find him in my Florida butterfly book.  Could he be a moth?   Can anyone help??






Baby gators are all along the road some are hidden in the grasses, others are right out in the open.











When you can look closely at individual birds, their markings are simply beautiful.
What great designs on this limpkin and the female anhinga.











We haven’t seen too many LBB’s here in Florida so I’m GUESSING this is a yellow rumped warbler hoping around in the grasses at the edge of the road.  Judy will correct me if that’s not correct. 




We are seeing lots of black crowned night herons and it is certainly not night.





My only snake photo for the day is another brown water snake – I think!
He’s happily sunning himself on a rock at the edge of a small water hole.






After this lovely setting, we do finally get back on our bikes and ride off toward the observation tower.













You can see how many times we stop to get closer looks at all the beauty of the Shark Valley Trail.













We’re about half way around when the tower comes into view.





Alligators on the road to greet us.DSCF6665



Alligators by the bike rack to guard our bikes both on the bank and in the water.








Alligators on the walk up to the tower.








The view is fantastic out over the River of Grass and down into the waters directly below the tower. 


It’s a bird’s eye view looking from above.






















These may be my favorite two pictures of the day. 


Alligator relaxing from up above.  The first one is him swimming using just his tail, his legs going straight back and the second, he stops and just totally “relaxes”.  Now that looks like LOT of fun to me.







After a nice long time at the tower we get this selfie and  head back down and out again on the trail.






What a great place!  What a perfect day!!


First stop, glossy ibis – everywhere in the beautiful wetlands.   What a GREAT place!  What a perfect day.













Second stop this picturesque pond complete with spoonbills, wood storks,












There are just great pictures every where you look here.  


It takes us all day long and I mean from 9:30 to 3:30 to bike this 15 miles.














Got a little itch.




In our last two visit here, the back side of the trail has had fewer water fowl and gators because it has been a more “normal” and dry winter.  But this year has been so wet that the trial is amazing all the way around.   It is just one wonderful thing after another.









In the last three miles, between picture stops I decide to sprint.  I get up to 20 mph and leave David far behind.







I still probably stop at least half a dozen times in that three miles.  I can’t just race by this beauty.















But I do get back to the visitor’s center long before he rounds the final bend.   And I have to show him the terrific children’s book I have found while waiting.   Sadly for me, it’s the only copy of this story of the founding of the National Audubon Society and it is not for sale but the kid in me would love to buy some copies and give them away to all the nature loving children I meet.







What a great day.  What a great place. 
We will definitely keep coming back here on every trip to the Everglades.
I’m not sure there is a better 15 mile bike ride any where.


  1. Your first insect picture is a butterfly, but I don't know what kind. Moths don't have those bulges at the end of their antennas. As for the little bird, I'm not confident of its ID, but I really don't think it's a yellow-rump. I'm not much help, am I? ;)

  2. That is hands down, my favorite bike ride and you had a beautiful day to enjoy it:o))

  3. You got so many beautiful "eye" pictures. The statement that "there is no concern about them (alligators) on the road" wouldn't convince me in a hundred years! I don't have any desire to get that close to an alligator, but everything else is superb. (I know the gators have their place in nature, but I can't help it, I don't care for them.)

  4. Not only an amazing bike ride, but more amazing pictures of nature's finest! I also have to admit I've never seen gator poop before... :cD

  5. Now THAT looks like fun!! I could do that.... unlike the mud walk yesterday :). My, all those lovely birds to look at and take pictures of, you are getting really good bird pictures!! AND a turtle.....!!!! not to very sure of all those alligators tho, still scary to me... that they could just flip right around and be after you!!!

  6. Great picture of the little ol big mouths! how cute is that!

    Looks like a moth to me but I know nothing… great eye pictures too… not fond of alligators on my path. But then I don't walk in swamps either.

    15 miles along a swamp … good ride… enjoyed it very much... oh, I see Judy says it isn't a moth... well, see... what do I know.

  7. This is such an awesome 15 miles. Dec. was our first visit there. We took the tram the first day, which I would recommend to anyone to get a great background on the area. Then, we went back the next day and rode our bikes. I loved that all the wildlife was so tame. Much easier to get good photos. Your photos of that gator from the tower are terrific!

  8. OK, now you have gone and "done" it...... John and I have had absolutely no interest in returning to Florida. You have totally changed our minds. About 30 years ago, we drove "Alligator Alley" and thought it to be just an ugly swamp full of mosquitoes and weeds.

    Because of YOU, we want to return and see the beauty and wonders of the Everglades.

  9. Sherry, those little birds have the biggest mouths I've ever seen. and I'm with Paul and Marti. I've never thought about Alligator poop before......

  10. What an amazing wildlife day you had -- especially the birds! We really enjoyed biking Shark Valley, too -- but we were there mid-December and didn't see anywhere near as many birds as you did. Love all of your "eye" photos. ;-)

  11. Thanks for posting such beautiful photos. I have lived in Florida most of my life and never really wanted to go to the everglades. You have changed my mind.

  12. Shark Valley is a wonderful place and you captured it so well. You and David really know how to get to know an area. Sadly, too many people come to Florida and never see the "real" Florida. If you've never seen the Everglades, prairies, or Florida springs, you haven't seen Florida.

    I love the pictures of the baby Anhingas. I don't believe I've ever seen any in person.

    I took some close up photos of the gators at Oasis Visitor center. Those eyes are fascinating to me too.

  13. What a great day, one of these years we'll have to head to FL and visit all these great places. Thanks for another wonderful tour.

  14. Love the close up shots. Want to be there, now!

  15. Always amazing to me how we establish comfort levels...I can hike all day among black bears in the Smokies and tell everyone else not to worry about it if you know what to do when you see one, but despite your words, I'd be terrified to bike/walk so close to those alligators unless I was in a huge group of people. Guess our first time to ride this amazing path will have to be with you and David!!! BTW, Bill loves seeing the pictures of David with all that hair. He says it gives him hope!! Bill had hiccups all night from the dex they give him with his Monday chemo. Thankfully, they aren't horrible and always go away within 24 hours, but we always think of David's horrible experience with them and keep our fingers crossed.

  16. Forgot to ask....where are you now? Winona says you left Midway on the 6th.

  17. Gators, gators everywhere! Wow what a ride! I love the night heron and your pictures of eyes. That LBB looks a little out of place. Baby aningas and gators...is it spring yet?! Excellent way to spend the day :)

  18. wow. . .what a wonderful, wonderful day. . .this portion of the Everglades reminds me of Brazos Bend State Park just out of Houston. . .alligators everywhere there too. . .really great pics in today's post!

  19. You've really captured the beauty of the whole area. Great 'eye' shots too!

  20. wonderful diversity of critters! I loved the shot of the gator eye

  21. All day to do to 15 miles ... sounds good to me.


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